It would do absolutely no good and great harm to increase American troop strength in Iraq.
In order to make a material difference on the ground, there would have to be 50,000 to 100,000 more American boots on the ground.
We do not have the troops, without creating extreme punishment on our force structures today and doing extreme damage to declining deterrent capability in every other part of the world. We cannot continue to misuse and abuse our Guard and Reserve forces, and deploy them as though they are nothing but an adjunct to the Army and Marine Corps, which is not their designated role.
And: a substantial increase in troop strength would probably create more instability and make the problem worse, and would definitely send exactly the most disastrous signal to Prime Minister Maliki and an Iraqi government that is far too often loyal to murderous militia, and pro-Iranian factions with guns.
If John McCain wants to campaign for the right wing base of the Republican Party in the 2008 primaries, that is his problem, but should not become America's policy and America's problem.
To send in a nominal amount of increased troops, in the 10,000 to 20,000 range, would have virtually zero impact on the ground in military terms, would send the same disastrous signal to the Iraqi government, would be simply a doomed political compromise with American conservative and neoconservative factions who have already done enough harm for a lifetime.
We should not compromise with them, we should end their policy.
What needs to be done, in military terms, is a major rebuild of depleted force structures, a major recruitment and moderate expansion of the current Army and Marine Corps forces, a major replacement of outdated and worn down equipment, and no additional military commitements without compelling cause.
General Barry McCaffrey and others have placed the cost of what must be done, for this rebuild, above $50 billion and to maintain our force structure, capacity to respond and credible deterrence it must be done.
Within Iraq and throughout the Middle East the United States must regain the political and moral authority of every American leader since 1948, and initiate comprehensive plans and proposals for Middle East peace. It is unconscionable, inexusable and doomed to failure that President Bush abandoned this fifty year strategy.
There should be a major push for a 60 day cease fire in Iraq, a serious 60 day national reconciliation conference in Iraq, and a serious commitment for a substantial economic revival package with multilateral financing. We should appeal directly to the Iraqi people by working for an end to the carnage and the beginning of a new quest for opportunity and hope.
The hard truth is, there is a real question whether Prime Minister Maliki's loyalties and limits are so severely wrong that he is incapable of doing the right thing. He may be so powerfully in the grip of Shi'ite and pro-Iranian factions and militia that he himself is indistinguishable from our enemies. Let us hope this is wrong, but it could be right.
Maliki and his supporters must be challenged and pushed with serious pressure and serious time limits, and a serious policy with a true prospect for peace. We should find out within weeks to months, with hard and aggressive time frames that are at a minimum, implicit, but in any event, are clearly understood.
Otherwise we are simply providing additional heroin to the junkie, in the form of American troops and American money, sinking further into the quagmire. What America needs, what Iraq needs, what the Middle East needs is for the U.S. to simply cut off the failed policy, and begin a new policy.
To turn a battleship around is hard. It takes time, effort and commitment. The prospect of success is challenging but far, far better than the doomed policies and the inevitable disaster of continuing the status quo.
We need a serious commitment to regionwide negotiations. We need a credible program to seek a broader Middle East peace. We need political, military and diplomatic moves to support the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon which should be a major priority. We need to begin again, real efforts to solve the long standing issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and regain the American role of leadership that has been missing for the full six years of the Bush Presidency.
This will not be easy, it will be hard. Given the disastrous mistakes over the past six years, we now face a choice between the worthy but hard, versus the disastrous and doomed.
There is hope in the Baker initiative, but the precondition for hope and success will be a clean break with the failed policy. We must not increase American troops in Iraq, which will only prove we have learned nothing from the mistakes of the past. We should go in an entirely new direction and build an entirely better future.